As the joint Putin-Erdogan press-conference wound up in Ankara on December 1, hot news literally hit the headlines of European media. Reporters tried hard to pinpoint the most important agreements reached by Russian and Turkish presidents to be mentioned in their reports.
It took a long time to prepare the meeting which happened to be really fruitful. First, the both sides agreed to use national currencies in mutual settlements to augment the bilateral trade volume three times. Second, the parties narrowed their differences over Syria. Third, it was announced that from January 1, 2015 Turkey will get a six percent discount in natural gas prices. Russia will build a 63 billion cubic meter capacity natural gas pipeline to Turkey - the same capacity as the South Stream, the project planned before. The beginning point of the new pipeline will be Russkaya Station, same as in the South Stream project. Asked about the fate of South Stream Vladimir Putin said, «If Europe does not want to carry out (South Stream), then it will not be carried out. We are now going to focus our energy resources in other directions. We will focus our energy resource flows on other regions of the world, including through promotion and accelerated implementation of liquefied natural gas projects. We will promote them in other markets, and Europe will not receive those volumes – at least, from Russia».
Now let’s sum it up and see who lost and who gained as a result of Moscow’s decision to change the gas transit routes. No doubt the agreements reached meet the interests of Russia and Turkey. Now the Russian gas will not flow to the European Union across the territories of Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Austria. Instead it will be transported through Turkey. Simultaneously all alternative pipeline projects are blocked. Russia squeezed out all competitors from the South European market and did it in a much more effective way than building the South Stream pipeline. Turkey is able to ensure its energy security. The two parties also agreed to build large underground gas storage facilities in Turkey near the Greek border to protect the country against interruptions in gas supplies. As a result, Turkey will turn into a world gas hub for many years to come. It will strengthen the Turkey’s clout in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.
The Bulgarian politicians could not stand up to the pressure exerted by Washington and opened the doors for growing Turkey’s influence in the region. It will have serious consequences for Bulgaria.
The Russia-Turkey agreements strengthen the Eurasian global clout. It has special importance as Europe appears to be subject to progressive sclerosis.
No doubt, problems exist in Russia-Turkey relations but they pale in comparison with the black cloud hanging over Europe. The European Union tempts fate as it blindly follows the United States on Ukraine cutting off its nose to spite its face. The European Union sacrificed its interests when it was creating obstacles on the way of South Stream. Brussels did not want the EU member-states to purchase gas straight from producer at lower price. It means they will buy gas from Turkey acting as a go-between paying a higher price. With low prices to pay for gas and relatively low cheap labor Turkey will advance its global competitive edge leaving behind the majority of European Union members. Turkish companies will «squeeze out» Europeans from world markets - it’s a matter of time now.
Brussels should realize that by opposing the «excessive Russia’s influence in the Balkans» the EU has increased Russia’s and Turkey’s influence in South-East Europe. Without a strategic gas pipeline and stable energy supplies the Balkans will turn into a «blind gut» of the European economy. Actually the European Union left the people of the Balkans without any prospects for progress or hopes for better future.
What if the United States will try to take revenge for the rapprochement between Russian and Turkey and stage something like an «Istanbul Spring»? Will Europeans join Washington like they did supporting the US policy in Syria and Libya? The voice of reason is hardly heard in Europe today. But it says that it would be tantamount to putting out fire by pouring more fuel on it. This voice is weak enough and it may not be heard.
If Brussels listened to the voice of reason, the South Stream would have been built a long time ago. It all goes to show that today it is impossible to take the idea of «European choice» seriously.